Shoulding, Coulding, Woulding, and Being

Some months ago, a fellow writer said to me, “Some people like to tell others what they should do or how to be or what to believe. Some writers just invite others on a journey of how they’re doing or being or what they’re believing. You’re the latter. Stop thinking you need to be the former.”

The switch was flicked or the door cracked open or I saw the light or some combination of all three. In some small or some magnificent way, I began to see how much our lives are not necessarily born out of who we are at our core, but who the world thinks we are. Our lives? I mean, my life.

Those words set me on course that I think I was already on, but illuminated it for me more clearly. I was walking the ridgeline of a theological shift that would mean the almost certain loss of readers, but I cared so deeply for those readers that I didn’t want to say what the shift was (I still don’t). Not because I care one whit about numbers but because I care deeply about the stories God is drawing us through in order to draw us to himself. I’ve seen how the rapid change in temperature has boiled not just the frog himself, but all his friends too. We watch the deconstructions or reconstruction or awakening or deadening of those we look to, and something within us deconstructs or reconstructs or awakens or deadens too, even if we’re not steeped in the same tea as the poor frog. We can’t help it because we are all worshipers. James K.A. Smith says,

“Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.” (You Are What You Love)

But it’s not just worship of God that does that, worship of people does too. And we are all little idol-making factories, even those of us who just whined incredulously that we’re not. We are. And God made us, in some ways, that way. We are intrinsic worshipers in a long haul journey to the object of our best worship, with some less than savory pit stops along the way. Every time one of those pit stops disappoints us with their meandering paths and deconstructions of tightly held doctrines or group-thinks, we are reformed, recalibrated, and rehabilitated—sometimes for good, sometimes not.

Sayable has always been about a journey I’m on, over the mountains and through the trees and dipped low into foggy valleys and sometimes, sometimes the glorious thing that is human flight. Every time I’ve wrenched this experience into a pulpit or platform or TED talk where I stand up front and tell you how to be or what to do, I felt like an imposter. And I thought, I thought, it was because I was a very bad person or a hypocrite or undeserving of those spaces or those clicks, but now, more and more, I realize it is because I don’t belong there. I belong down here, with you.

When the thought of being on camera or running a hugely influential Influencer account on Instagram or rubbing shoulders with the who’s-who of the Christian celebrity world makes me want to vomit or go hide in my bed, it’s not because those spaces are bad, it’s because I don’t belong in them.

I have always loved the gerunds of the gospel, the -ings of our transformation from darkness to light. The becoming, the being, the awakening, the walking, the confessing, and the doing of God’s work. I love the concept of being a work in progress and not the one who has arrived and shows the others the way to go. This is who I am today. By God’s grace it is not who I was yesterday and by his mercy, it is not who I will be tomorrow.

Yesterday I listened to Philip Yancey talk about how in the beginning of his writing career he was angsty over church hurt and some circumstances of his life that were painful, and he wrote Where is God When it Hurts then. But now, toward the end of his life, the disparate pieces have begun to coalesce and he writes books on prayer and meditation. I felt so comforted by those words because they were the honest confession of a man who wrote out of his today and didn’t pretend to be in the tomorrow.

So much of the world today is full of people telling us what we should do, what we can do, what we must do if we want to be as educated as them in particular fields. But more and more I’m convinced some people just can’t. They can’t. They’re just not there yet. They’re where they are today, with the stories they have, the family they have, the wounds they have, and the faith they’re fighting for. And no matter how it looks to all the world, they’re fighting for that faith, begging for it, pleading with the Lord to increase it. They’re doing what seems best to them in the moment, as Hebrews 12 says, not knowing it maybe isn’t the best. I even think the influencers and experts are doing that in some form too, even if they pretend to have it all figured out.

I’m grateful my fellow writer friend reminded me of who I am. I will never belong on the stages and blogs and book racks of people who came through and arrived. I will always belong among the vagabonds and straggly sorts who don’t know exactly where the journey is going, but goodness gracious, they want to go.

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